Former Security Branch officer says Haffejee could not have committed suicide
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THE reopened inquest into the death of Dr Hoosen Haffejee on Tuesday heard evidence from a former Security Branch police officer who was present during his interrogation who told the inquest that Haffejee was not in any state to have been able to commit suicide.
Mohum Gopal, a junior within the apartheid era Security Branch police at the time of Haffejee’s death on August 3, 1977, told Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Zaba Nkosi that he had been beaten up so badly and was so weak that it was unfathomable how he would have managed to take his own life by hanging himself.
“I will never ever believe that Dr Haffejee took his own life, and the reason I am saying that is with all the beating that he had received during the day and into the night, plus he was a very thin person, he was weak, weak, weak, weak, weak.
“He was so weak he was trembling, he was shivering and he did not have the energy to do that type of … I do believe that he twisted himself to death, that’s all I can say,” Gopal said.
Gopal also detailed how Haffejee had been severely assaulted during the interrogation, and recalled an episode when he was taken to the toilet by Captain Jimmy Taylor, who held him by his neck and escorted him while Gopal was behind them.
“Jimmy Taylor forcibly pushed Dr Haffejee's head into the toilet pan and told him to drink that water. Dr Haffejee was resisting and pushed back to avoid going into the water, but Jimmy Taylor continued.
“He eventually let go of Dr Haffejee, and that's when his head hit back against the floor and he got hurt. That would explain the injury to the back of his head … this could have happened after lunch, presumably in the afternoon.
“I can’t comment on whether he didn’t want to die. He tried to save himself from drinking the filthy water, that's all I can say. I can't say what was going through his mind.
“I don't think it was his intention to hit his head, it was to prevent himself from getting his head into the filthy water,” Gopal said.
He added that Haffejee was then dragged back from the toilet, at which point he was shivering a lot, and that the assault continued when Haffejee was taken back from the toilet. However, Haffejee did not divulge any information on his political activities.